2014 NBA Playoffs: Spurs and Heat progress to Conference Finals
The Pacers had a chance to wrap up their series in Game 5 at home and failed to capitalize on their opportunity, but the two-time defending champions the Miami Heat grabbed the first chance they got to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals – their fourth consecutive trip in as many years. On the other hand the veteran San Antonio Spurs team made it to their third consecutive Western Conference Finals by beating the Portland Trail Blazers with the same scoreline with which the Heat eliminated the Brooklyn Nets.
Here’s a recap of Wednesday night’s games:
(2) Miami Heat vs (6) Brooklyn Nets (Miami won 96-94, win series 4-1 and advance to Eastern Conference Finals)
It was just by a couple of hours or so this time around but the Heat were once again the first team to advance to the next round with a late surge to grab Game 5 on their own home floor.
Trailing for much of the second half, and by 8 with 5 minutes to go, the Heat went on a 13-3 late game run to seal the deal and advance to the Conference Finals for a match-up with either the Indiana Pacers or the Washington Wizards.
A brilliant blast from the past for all Heat fans was Dwyane Wade’s play as he scored 28 for the game on 10 of 18 shooting plus making all of his eight free throws. He single-handedly carried the team on the offensive end for close to three quarters much like he had in the years before LeBron James arrived to South Beach. Despite Wade’s spectacular display though, it was James and Ray Allen who fuelled the late 13-3 run for the Heat.
Meanwhile for the Nets there was no play-calling in the fourth as there was too much isolation in the form of Joe Johnson who scored 12 of their 19 fourth quarter points. He did knock down big shots shots but turned the ball over at crucial moments of the game including the final possession, which eventually lead to the team’s exit from the Playoffs. He had 34 for the game followed by Paul Pierce who had a quiet 19.
James was a big catalyst behind “the run” made 15 of his game-high 29 points on 17 attempts from the charity, and also had a near double-double with 9 rebounds. His steal on the last possession and a block off Joe Johnson two possessions prior were huge talking and turning points of the game.
Here’s a look at Miami Heat’s fourth quarter run:
(1) San Antonio Spurs vs (5) Portland Trailblazers (San Antonio won 104-82, win series 4-1 and advance to Western Conference Finals)
Although the Spurs have made it to their third consecutive Finals, the party in the locker room would not have been the same as it was the previous two seasons largely because Tony Parker, a player vital to their plans of a long post-season, left for the floor in the second quarter with an injury.
Despite not having Parker on the court the script of the game was not very different from Games 1, 2 and 3, where once again the Trail Blazers were blown out by a margin of 17 or more. Although the Spurs took care of the game without him, the question will arise as to how realistic their championship chances stand now.
With Parker out, the younger guns stepped up for the Spurs with Danny Green finally finding his shooting rhythm scoring 22 points and 9 rebounds on 9 of 13 shooting and 4 of 6 from beyond the arc. Kawhi Leonard rose to the occasion as well with 22 points, grabbing 7 steals, registering 5 steals and shooting 9 of 15 from the field and 3 of 4 from three point land. Playing unexpected extra minutes, back-up point guard Patty Mills grabbed the opportunity with both hands scoring 18 points. Leonard and Green recorded a game high +23 in the +/- category.
In what was a tremendous performance despite the loss, the Blazers All-Stars LaMarcus Aldridge (21 points and 10 rebounds) and Damian Lillard (17 points and 10 assists) recorded huge numbers to exit the Playoffs after making quite an impression. Here’s what Head Coach of the Spurs Gregg Popovich had to say:
“Glad that’s over. Those guys are hard to guard. (The Trail Blazers) have got a bright future. We feel great about being able to move forward.”
Nicolas Batum, Portland’s under-rated All-Star, also had a big score sheet to show with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists but the areas where they lost this series were their bench and defence. Portland would have to work mighty hard this off-season and work on these categories if they are looking for future success in the form of a championship.
The Final moments from the Heat-Nets game head the top 5 plays of the day